I write to figure out what I think and what I know.
I received my MFA in Creative Writing from the Rosemont School of Graduate Studies in May 2009. I also served for several years as co-chair of the Montgomery County Community College Writers’ Club, and won first prize in the 2006 MCCC Writers’ Club Student’s Short Story Contest. I was a finalist in the Sarah Lawrence 2007 Short Story Contest and won third prize in the Pen and Brush 2007 Short Story contest for my short story Laugh as Tate, to be published in an anthology soon. My poetry and fiction have appeared in Pen & Ink Times, Perspectives and Legal Studies Forum. My short story Beauregard was featured in the June 13, 2007 first fiction/poetry issue of the Chestnut Hill Local (Publisher: Chestnut Hill Community Association). Letters from Paris, also a short story, was published in the 2007 summer issue of Philadelphia Stories (publishers: Carla Spataro and Christine Weiser). By day I’m a health lawyer practicing in Conshohocken, PA and Chatham, MA, having received my undergraduate degree from Duke University and law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Please contact me at: Ldoty(at)dotyhealthlaw.com
Dry Faith Introduction
Dry Faith takes place in a retirement home in the idyllic seaside village of Chatham, on Cape Cod. Evelyn Walker, new head of the Leviticus Nursing Home, launches an experimental program to wean residents off psychotropic meds. Her efforts meet with powerful resistance, from state agencies to her own medical staff, until finally the program is shut down, but not before a nurse’s aide, dedicated to the program’s success, is found bludgeoned to death. Finding the young woman’s killer becomes vital to Evelyn when her own troubled son, Owen, is arrested for the murder. For better or worse, Brigham Amidou, Owen’s chain-smoking, pill-popping, rude-as-hell lawyer, is hot on the case. He drags Evelyn into a harsh and confusing legal system, but that’s nothing compared to the danger she faces when thwarting Big Pharma. Bleak as the outlook gets, Evelyn always finds support in an odd assortment of seniors, her true-blue secretary, and her own unflagging sense of humor.
Excerpt from Dry Faith
I ran the rest of the way to Courtroom 29 and stood at the entrance. Everyone in the room looked pale green under the fluorescent lighting. The room was stuffy with steam heat. Unshaven, oily men were scattered among the pews, some with their eyes closed and heads lolled back. Several women stood to the side of the Judge’s bench, talking to a uniformed police officer.
On the bench a woman with thick auburn hair curled up at her shoulders was filling out forms, her eyes scanning the page as she made checks along the sides. She looked massive up there in her black robe, but her fingers, manicured with red nail polish, were elegant. The sign in front of her read “Judge DeLong”.
I walked forward, my wet shoes squishing and my sodden camel hair coat weighing me down as I approached the Judge.
“Excuse me.” I waited. “Excuse me, are you Judge DeLong?”
The woman put down her pen and looked me over. She shoved the name plate in my direction and resumed her writing.
I ignored her rudeness. “Your Honor, my name is Evelyn Walker. My son is Owen Walker. I understand that he has been taken somewhere and I need to find out where so …..”
“Maybe you should have thought of all that when he called you two hours ago, Ms. Walker.” She started back on her forms.
“But I left home immediately. I got stopped….”
“You got stopped?” The Judge raised her head. “Ms. Walker, does the boy have a father? No, don’t tell me. You have a boyfriend. Is he here with you?”
“What? No, of course not. I mean, his father, my husband, died seven years ago.”
“Right. Ms. Walker, next time you get a call from this Court, you come right away and you bring your lawyer. Do you have a lawyer?”
“There’s someone--Mr. Meyer—he--well, he drew up my will.” Judge Delong didn’t need to hear about Owen’s DUI. “I can call him.”
The Judge made her final notation and pushed aside the forms. “See that woman over there in the maroon dress chewing gum?” She pointed her finger as though casting a spell. “She’ll give you the arraignment sheet on your son. You sit down like all the rest of these nice people and you read it. Then she’ll give you instructions. You do not need to interrupt me again.”
Maroon dress handed me a form from the top of a pile on her desk. Her eyes had that same sad, sympathetic look as the young associate I’d met earlier, Donna. I took the form over to a front pew and tried to read, but the words got jumbled and I had to keep starting over.
“The body of the Decedent was found …”
I stopped reading. I was sure I’d been given the wrong form. It probably belonged to that poor person they were talking about down the hallway, the one who was “buried”. I flipped back to the front page.
“Owen William Walker, Defendant. Age: 21 years. Address: 251 Forest Beach Road, Chatham, MA.”
My Owen. Defendant? I felt light-headed and my hands wouldn’t hold the page steady. I started again from the beginning.
“Complainant, stepfather of the Decedent, claims that Decedent telephoned him at 6pm to say that Defendant and she would be studying at the library on college campus and that she would return home by 10pm. Complainant claims to have returned home from work at 19:30 pm and waited for Decedent. At 22:30 Complainant phoned the Defendant, who said that he and Decedent had left the library at the same time, 23:30. Complainant made phone calls to friends with regard to the whereabouts of Decedent without success and telephoned HPD at 23:50. Police arriving at the home of Complainant requested keys to the vehicle matching the description of Decedent’s 2002 Ford Stratus, Massachusetts tag number GDB1983 found at the end of Complainant’s driveway. The body of the Decedent was found by Officers Joe Stunkard and Ray Mudd at 0200 hours am in the trunk of said vehicle. Upon arrival of the Crime Scene Unit Officers Stunkard and Mudd proceeded to question neighbors and located one Harold West at 5706 Woodland who described a man running through the woods (known to locals as The Wilderness) near the home of Decedent at approximately 21:30 and matching the description of Defendant….”
I sat motionless. The words on the sheet couldn’t have anything to do with Owen. I flipped back to the front page.
“Lorraine Putnam, Decedent. Age 20 years. Address: 5703 Woodland Street, Hyannis, Mass.” Lorraine Putnam? My God, Lori! They were talking about Owen’s girlfriend. Dead?
I had to act. Call the lawyer--get him out of bed--down to the courthouse. I reached into my purse, into the space where I usually kept my phone, and instead of the phone pulled out the hot pocket sandwich I’d intended to eat for dinner. Crap!
My mind was racing. Bail. I needed to post bail. Then I could talk to Owen and he would explain everything. I looked around for the woman in maroon. Hardly anyone was left in the courtroom. Even the Judge had gone home. Thank God, the maroon woman was talking to the officer and some other women. They all turned around as I spoke.
“Excuse me, I need some help. I—
“Boy are you in the wrong place.” The officer laughed at his own joke, his bleached teeth sparkling as he looked to the others for approval. One of the women snorted.
“Please. How do I post bail? Where do I go for that? Who do I talk to?” The tears began to fall.
Maroon lady took me by the elbow to a window on the far side of the courtroom. She pointed across the street where a dim light shone. I was to see Mr. Zinzer on the third floor. She squeezed my arm as I left.
The stairwell was lit by a single light bulb that gave a scum-like sheen to the beige walls. The air was stale and cold. I could see my breath as I trudged up the stairs.
Mr. Zinzer sat at his desk in a narrow office the size of a potting shed. I knocked on the open door and said his name.
Without looking up he stuck out his hand. “Papers?” He studied the arraignment sheet and I studied him. Fifty-ish, sunken cheeks, skinny, with black thinning hair slicked back into a pony tail. His mouth hung open as he read, and the stub of a nonfiltered cigarette, unlit, stuck magically to his lower lip. All of a sudden he yanked open his desk drawer, revealing half a sandwich and a gun, and pulled out a brochure.
“No bail for murder.”
“What does that mean, no bail for murder? My son needs to come home.”
“That’s why I give the brochure. Take it.”
I flipped through the faded photocopy. “Law offices of Tuffano and Associates, LLP”. My head began to throb. “Does this mean they won’t bring my son back tonight?”
“They tell ya they took him to County, then State?
“He’s not coming back for a while, lady. You get yourself that lawyer.”
I wouldn’t accept that Owen wasn’t coming back. I got out of there.
Heading back to the courthouse, I prayed Donna hadn’t left yet. She was from that same firm in Zinzer’s brochure. The guard at the security booth knew the firm and the girl and had me sit on the hall bench while he tried to reach her, or at least someone who could look for her.
Close to midnight, the young associate arrived with a carrier holding two cups of steaming coffee, creamers, sweetener and sticks to stir with. As we doctored our coffee, she explained the charges against Owen, what would happen next in terms of court proceedings, and the need to line up counsel fast.
“This state has all the resources in the world to throw at this case, experts, equipment, money. And you better believe they’ve already started to organize their forces and set them in motion.”
It felt odd, taking advice from someone so young, but she seemed to know what she was talking about in an area where my soul source of information was TV. “Is this the kind of case your firm can handle?”
She put her cup on the floor. “Yes. In fact we’re known for our close working relationship with the prosecutor, and our good deals, even in cases like this.”
“What does that mean, good deals? A plea bargain? We don’t need to plea bargain. He’s innocent.”
She bit her lip. “Most people say the same thing at first, Mrs. Walker. But the odds against an individual are pretty overwhelming. Why don’t you think about it a little? I’m here for another hour or so. You can reach me through security again.”
After she left, I sat and nibbled the cold hot pocket while an elderly man, keys jangling from his belt, swabbed the wood floors with something that smelled of ammonia. I must have nodded off because when I opened my eyes the officer with the egghead, Officer Ray, was looking down at me.
“Mind if I sit?”
“No, go ahead.” I wiped my eyes.
He shifted on the bench until he was a comfortable distance away. “Ms. Walker, my partner and I, we were the ones arrested your son. Went to his apartment. Nice set up. That red Jeep out front, big wheels. My partner didn’t like that your son wouldn’t talk to us. Just kept complaining the cuffs too tight, you know?”
“Go on,” I said.
“You know what happens to college boys at the State Pen?”
He shook his head. “You get him a good lawyer, Ms. Walker.”
He patted the bench and stood up.
“Officer. Did your partner ….”
“Did he loosen the cuffs?”
“No, Ms. Walker. He tightened them. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”